Welcome, Debra Goldstein

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome mystery author, Debra Goldstein to the blog this week.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, transplanted Yankee and civic volunteer are all words used to describe me. My writings are equally diverse. Although my novels are traditional mysteries with cozy elements, my short stories tend to be darker with unexpected twists. My non-fiction essays reflect emotional slices of life.

I am very excited about One Taste Too Many, the first of my new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series being published by Kensington. In One Taste, culinary challenged Sarah knows starting over after her divorce will be messy. Things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin sister’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with her cat, RahRah, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her sister wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death – being in the kitchen!

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

Presently, I don’t have any pets (unless you count my husband), but in the past, I’ve had dogs. Traits from our toy poodle and bichon frise find their way into book two, Two Bites Too Many, but my limited knowledge of animals beyond dogs was a definite problem when I decided I wanted a cat to play a major role in the Sarah Blair mystery series. I remedied my lack of familiarity with cats by contacting a friend who has a very special Siamese cat, Suri. Suri’s behavior, tricks, and even appearance became the model for my absolute favorite cat, RahRah.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

One of the main characters in the Sarah Blair mystery series is RahRah the cat. Sarah married at eighteen, divorced by twenty-eight and in doing so swapped a luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a job as a law firm receptionist. The only thing she can show for the past decade is her feisty Siamese cat, who previously belonged to her ex’s mother. Knowing RahRah already probably spent one of his nine lives when he was rescued, as a kitten from a hurricane’s floodwaters, Sarah is very protective of RahRah – when she isn’t wishing she could have the resilience and confidence he has. Basically, RahRah owns the world.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

One Taste Too Many is the first of at least three Sarah Blair mysteries. I’m doing final edits on the second book, Two Bites Too Many, and am writing the third book, Three Treats Too Many. In my spare time, I’ve been writing short stories. Several of them will be published in 2019 including The Dinner Gift, which won an award in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable competition, Harvey and the Red HeadThe Eyes of Texas anthology, and Nova, Capers, and a Schmear of Cream CheeseFishy Business, an anthology compiled by the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

The earliest pet I remember having was a goldfish won at a school carnival. Sadly, it barely survived the transfer from its plastic bag to a small bowl. After a proper mourning period, my parents bought me three miniature turtles. I named them Turk, Dirk, and Lurk – perhaps a sign of the mystery bent my writing career would take. Later, we added a grey miniature poodle, Lord Silver Mist (Misty) to the family menagerie.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

I believe animals have true personalities and impact the lives of everyone in a household. Consequently, when I use an animal in my writing, as I do with RahRah in the Sarah Blair mystery series, the animal must be a fully developed character. I want the reader to enjoy the animal’s behavior and interaction with the human characters, not simply be a reference to a cat or dog because the book or story has cozy elements. For me, the interaction between animals and humans can provide the impetus to move the story forward, be an instance of comic relief, or simply serve to illustrate another character’s personality. RahRah does all of these things at different points in One Taste Too Many.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in my writing because they allow me show, rather than tell, the reader about different aspects of the other characters’ personalities. For example, if a fussy animal rubs against the leg of a seemingly tough character, but the character unconsciously bends and pets the animal, we realize the tough guy has a soft side. My animals also create or dissipate tension through dramatic or comedic moments. Finally, I use animals because I like them.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

My favorite book with an animal as a prominent character is One Taste Too Many because after living with it for the past year, I’m partial to it. Bambi is the movie with a central animal character that had a lasting impact on me because of its plot twists, but those twists are what keeps me from using the word “favorite” with it.

 Bambi was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I was three years old and the movie was a treat my father took me to because my parents had recently brought home this thing they called my sister. I’m not sure if they wanted me to have one on one time with a parent or simply thought it a good idea to get me out of the house because every time they asked me to help by handing them something for the baby, I threw it at her – don’t worry, we are very close now. Although I still smile when I think of Bambi and Thumper, the animals, the scenes when Bambi’s mother was killed and where the fire spread through the forest were so powerful they made a lasting impression on me. I watched the movie again as an adult and was again disturbed by those scenes, but now I understood them from a writer’s perspective. Each was a major plot point change where tension and conflict occurred. For a writer, Bambi is an excellent lesson in how to effectively manipulate the emotions of a viewer or reader.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

When I first started writing, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought getting the story in my head on paper was all I had to do. I wish I had known more about the business side – agents, publishers, distribution, marketing, social media usage, and personal platforms. It has been a steep learning curve. The other thing I wish I knew when I started writing is how wonderful and supportive other writers would prove to be.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

My favorite place to read or write is in an oversized club chair that my mother had made for my father for their first anniversary. My father wasn’t a big person, but he had long legs. She ordered the chair built with an extra two inches of length in the seat and plenty of back support. For years, my father used that chair to read the paper and watch television. When he wasn’t home, my sister and I used the arms of that chair as our imaginary horses and by covering it with a blanket, we often made it our tent or covered wagon.

When my father died, the chair, for the next decade, became the one my mother curled up in when she wanted to read or visit with any of her kids or grandchildren. If I was visiting, I’d wait for her to go to bed and then sneak into the chair to read or write. It just felt right. When my mother died, other than some art work, there was only one piece of furniture I insisted on shipping from California to Alabama. Today, the chair sits in my bedroom. I use it to read and write and our grandchildren have discovered how wonderful its arms are for make believe.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Do it! Passion should never be ignored.

About Debra

One Taste Too Many is the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series by Agatha and Anthony nominated Judge Debra H. Goldstein. Her prior books include Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Debra’s short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. She is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppies, serves on Sinc’s national board, and is vice-president of SEMWA.

 

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Find out more about her writings at www.DebraHGoldstein.com , on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/ , or on Twitter @DebraHGoldstein.

One Taste Too Many is available in print and e-book from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery/dp/1496719476 ), Barnes & Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-taste-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1128297322?ean=9781496719478#/ ) and your local indie bookstores.

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3 Things to Do Before Bringing Home Your First Pet by Jessica Brody

Please welcome Jessica Brody to Pens, Paws, and Claws. She’s our guest blogger this weekend about bringing home your first pet.

Becoming a pet owner is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Dogs and cats are especially lovely creatures, providing endless companionship and unconditional love. Of course, caring for another life comes with its fair share of hefty responsibilities — there are several things that need to be done before you even bring them home! Check out these preparation tips so you can ensure the successful adoption and a happy life with your new friend.

 Research Pet Types Carefully

 Try not to fall for the first adorable pet that catches your eye. It’s important that your lifestyle meets the needs of the particular animal or breed you choose, so do your research before making a decision. To start, you’ll want to consider a few important questions.

        How much space do you have in your home and yard?

       Can you handle pet hair, unpleasant messes, and possible damage to your belongings?

       Do you have any allergies?

       How much time do you have to spend playing with and training a pet?

       What activities do you intend to do with them?

       Do you have the financial stability to support veterinary bills?

 Some dog breeds, like Shih Tzus, are better suited for apartment living and owners who work long hours. Others, like Dalmatians, love to exercise and are great companions for avid runners or hikers. In general, cats require less attention than dogs and tend to fit into various living situations, though they will still need space to roam around. If you just don’t have much room at all, aim for something in a cage or tank, like a fish.

 Get Your Home Ready

 Pets aren’t all fun and games — they’re a lot of work, too! Prepare your home ahead of time so you can keep up with the cleaning and avoid accidents. If you’re getting a cat, remember that litter boxes need to be cleaned on a daily basis. Consider investing in a self-cleaning litter box to make this task a little easier. Find the best options by checking out reviews on Cat Life Today.

 If you’re getting a puppy, look into comfortable crates and puppy pads to cut down on messy accidents during house training. No matter how careful you are, your pup is bound to have a few accidents inside. So, be prepared with cleaning products that prevent odors and stains from setting into your carpets or upholstery. You’ll also want to stock up on toys to keep your pet from unleashing their playful energy on your belongings. Dogster recommends pet-proofing your home with baby gates to keep your curious animals from exploring dangerous areas.

 Prepare a Gentle Welcome

Animals are very sensitive to change and can be uneasy in a new home for a few days. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make your pet more comfortable. Cats are territorial and will benefit from a personal area, such as a laundry room or bathroom, where they can be alone now and again. Petfinder suggests creating a small enclosure in this area where your cat can hide away. You can purchase a covered cat bed for this or make your own hideaway by cutting a doorway out of a cardboard box.

 Rescue pets coming from the shelter may be even more nervous or scared in a new home. Give them space to explore your house and try to reduce the number of new people they meet during the first week or so. You’ll also want to stay close by to encourage your pet to bond with you and help them feel safe for their first days. Schedule your adoption on the weekend so you can spend two to three days with them. Additionally, start your obedience training from day one to establish mutual respect and dependability between you and your pet as soon as possible.

 Owning a pet for the first time may be a bit scary, but you’ll quickly see why the majority of people consider their pets members of the family. Although they require a lot of time and money, they pay us back by increasing our happiness, encouraging us to exercise, reducing our stress, and providing endless support throughout our lives.

About Jessica Brody

I am a dog lover and creator of OurBestFriends.pet. I created the site to offer a place for animal lovers to share their favorite pet photos and stories about their furry pals. I believe dogs are the best creatures on earth. I enjoy writing about and sharing photos of dogs (and other pets!) on my website.

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Welcome, Author and Blogger, Julie Ryan!

Happy New Year! Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author and book blogger, Julie Ryan to the blog as our first guest of the new year.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. Not venturing too far from home, I studied French Language and Literature at Hull University, where I also trained as a teacher. Then the wanderlust kicked in and I lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. I am a bookaholic with a one-click addiction much to my husband’s dismay as we are running out of space. I will probably need to live to be 197 in order to read all the books on my shelves. When not writing or reading, I love amateur dramatics and this year I get to play the Soothsayer in Robin Hood.

My Greek Island Mystery series includes Jenna’s Journey, Sophia’s Secret and Pandora’s Prophecy. Each can be read as a standalone. My latest book is Finding Rose, a story of three sisters, three time periods and three secrets.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

At the moment we just have one cat, Smudgie, having lost our grumpy old man, Gizzie, over a year ago. Smudgie was a stray that my husband brought home from work. He was in a sorrowful state, covered in oil from the garage with an abscess on his neck. Now he is the most affectionate cat ever. His friendliness knows no bounds and one morning I woke up and looked out of the window to find him inside the pub opposite. He’d obviously stayed for a lock-in. There are always pets in my books, but none based on my own pets so far.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

It wasn’t intentional, but I think there is a cat in most of the books I’ve written. All my books are standalones, so the pets aren’t recurring characters. In Jenna’s Journey there is a cat with catitude ironically called Mr. Tickles, in Sophia’s Secret there is a female cat called Elektra who is a bit of a diva, in Pandora’s Prophecy there is a puppy for a change called Pickles, and in Callie’s Christmas Countdown, Cleo the cat makes an appearance. My latest book, Finding Rose features a black furball called Blackie as well as a pet pig called Lady.

What are you reading now?

After reading a lot of Christmas books, I’m just about to get started on The Palace of Dreams by Charlotte Betts.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m trying to write a new trilogy set in Greece, but I seem to be working on two books at the same time. My head is also buzzing with a possible sequel to Finding Rose.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have far too many to choose just one ‘favourite,’ but I love everything written by Victoria Hislop.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

We got our first cat, Lucky, when I was about ten. I adored that black and white scamp and my lifelong love of cats stems from that time. We also had a budgie but unfortunately, he came to a sad end.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

I was always a sensitive child and remember watching Lassie films where I would inevitably end up blubbling. I just can’t bear cruelty to animals, so I seem to remember being distraught when Lassie was kidnapped by some baddies.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I don’t think you suddenly become a writer. In my case I have always loved writing. I used to scribble short stories and even wrote a play for my best friend and me to act out for our parents when we were kids. However, I never thought of myself as a writer. Even now, with five novels under my belt, it still feels strange to call myself a writer, but I guess if you write, then you’re a writer. I don’t think you have to have a mega publishing contract; you just need to have the confidence to believe in yourself. Incidentally, I only started writing novels in my fifties so there is hope for everyone.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

When I’m typing Smudgie likes to ‘help’ by lying across the keyboard. If I try to write in bed, he nudges my hand until I stroke him. I’m sure that without his help, my book would have been finished months ago!

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

Reading is my number one passion apart from writing and I’m also a blogger. I’m in the     lovely position of writers and publishers sending me books to review. I manage to review about 100 books a year, but even I was shocked to discover I have nearly 2000 books on my Kindle aside from the physical books. It’s getting to the stage that I no longer have a TBR pile so much as a TBR room. It’s an addiction really as I can’t resist books no matter where I am. I do buy books too and at the top of my TBR list is Heroes by Stephen Fry – I’m really looking forward to that one.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Develop a thick skin and resilience. Unless you are incredibly talented and amazingly lucky, you will be rejected at some point. There are also trolls who will do their best to bring you down. Believe in yourself and be persistent. Don’t forget to enjoy the process though when you can, as to see your book in print is a feeling like no other.

About Julie:

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances; thrillers set in the Greek Isles.

A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and rescue cat. She manages to write a book a year although without their help, she would probably write more quickly. She is a book addict and will soon need either a bigger house for her collection or a new husband!

When not writing or reading or eating chocolate, she can be found treading the boards in the local amateur dramatic society – Oh yes, she can!

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Cat-Lovin’ Men

The perfect stocking stuffer! That’s what I thought when I spotted Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen at the intimate and atmospheric Fountain Bookstore, tucked in the heart of Richmond, Virginia’s historic Shockoe Slip district. I had the perfect person in mind for this charming volume: my cat-lovin’ husband.

In Of Cats and Men, author Sam Kalda entertains with amusing profiles and quotes from history’s most famous “cat men.” King Hywel the Good, Sultan Baibars, Sir Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, Edward Lear, Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, Sir Winston Churchill, T.S. Eliot, Paul Klee, Raymond Chandler, George Balanchine, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway, Balthus, Romare Bearden, William S. Burroughs, Saul Steinberg, Charles Bukowski, Marlon Brando, Edward Gorey, Andy Warhol, Haruki Muraakami, and Al Weiwei are just a few Mr. Kalda has included.

Now I knew that Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Raymond Chandler loved their cats. But Nikola Tesla, Marlon Brando, and Charles Bukowski? I had no idea. And, at the risk of revealing my cultural ignorance, I wasn’t familiar with many of the names profiled.

Nikola Tesla and cat
Marlon Brando and cat
Charles Bukowski writing a love letter to his cat.

Sam Kalda features feline-inspired quotes:

“I have my favorite cat, who is also my paperweight, on my desk while I am writing.” – Ray Bradbury

“What greater love than the love of a cat?” – Charles Dickens

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” – Ernest Hemingway.

∞∞∞

Edgar Allan Poe and his beloved tortoiseshell cat, Catterina, are not included in this volume. Neither are the Viennese painter, Gustav Klimt and his cat, Katze. In Klimt and His Cat (Berenice Capatti, author and Octavia Monaco, Illustrator)Katze narrates, giving readers a glimpse into the painter’s world.

Edgar Allan Poe with Catterina. From Poe Museum collection
Gustave Klimt with Katze. theonlinephotographer.typepad.com

I’m late with Christmas gift ideas, but gift giving is a year-round pleasure. Give your favorite cat-lovin’ man a copy of Of Cats and Men. He’ll appreciate the great company he’s in!

Note: women will love Of Cats and Men as well.

Here’s Glen, my cat-lovin’ man, with Olive and Morris:

Glen and Olive
Morris and Glen go online

Support your local bookstore. Or, Richmond’s Fountain Bookstore will ship your copy:

Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen

Klimt and His Cat

∞∞∞

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2Bj4uIL

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Welcome, Morgan Summer!

Happy Holidays! Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Morgan Summer to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. Currently, I am a 2nd year High School Biology teacher, married for almost 15 years with an 8 year old little girl. I write crime/detective novels as well as recently started writing an unnamed young adult mystery series. My first book Jean Stone Crime Series Volume 1: Stranger Among Us will be released early 2019.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? I have two shelter rescues, Sheldon just turned 6 and is an 18 pound orange tabby cat and Chief is our 3 ½ year old Catahoula Mix. They are definitely apart of my book series.

What writing projects are you currently working on? Currently finishing up edits on Jean Stone Volume 2, writing Book 3 of Jean Stone, and Book 2 of my young adult mystery series.

Who is your favorite author and why? Edgar Allan Poe, his short stories were my first introduction to mystery and suspense, that day I fell in love with his writing and the genre. The Tell-Tale Heart is still my favorite of his numerous stories.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. Too numerous to name. My dad was a veterinarian so we always had every type of pet imaginable brought home, cats, dogs, birds, lizards, turtles, etc. They still have a chinchilla named Jasmine who is about 18 or 19 years old.

Why do you include animals in your writing? My writing is about my life and my animals are just an extension of our human family members. There hasn’t been a time where I didn’t have a dog or a cat as a companion in my life. I will always include them in my stories.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I was always a reader, but as I got older I enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper. That turned into song lyrics since I wanted to be a county singer during my teenager years. College helped refine my writing skills, it was around that time I realized that I truly had a gift for writing. Then the day came that a fellow teacher jokingly told me that I should write a crime novel. Six weeks later, Jean Stone was born.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? Visit Italy. Reading is my favorite past time which transported me to different places all around the world through the pages. After reading numerous novels set there, I decided one day I would go see for myself all the beautiful sights and sounds Italy has to offer.

What do your pets do when you are writing? Lay at my feet and snore or annoy me depending on their mood.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? “FDR Letters” and “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America”, sadly I have so my TBR I can barely keep up!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? Outdoors in the country away from the world with no technology. There are no distractions, just me, my pencil and paper, and my imagination.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Do not write for anyone else, write for yourself. Be a limited edition.

Author Bio:

Reading was always a love of Morgan’s, devouring crime novels by the dozens. A random conversation with a fellow mentor and coworker, would inspire her to write the book series in the genre she loved. This was how Jean Stone was born.

 She has worn many hats from being a Navy Wife for 13 years to currently teaching High School Biology. Currently living back in her home state of Texas, if she isn’t teaching, she is either writing, crocheting, or spending time with her husband and daughter.

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Welcome, Mary Adler!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mary Adler to the blog.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

At the moment, we are blessed with only two dogs — Lily, our Rottweiler who had been abandoned in a garage after having birthed a litter of puppies, and Charley, our little terriorist mix, whose joy is contagious. Lily is older now, and her arthritis has put her in her purple chariot for longer walks which she loves.

At one point, our family included four Rottweilers, a pitty mix, and a few cats who came on their own to live with us despite all that canine presence.  Cyril, a beautiful long-haired cat once told the animal communicator (I live in California, after all) that he would like me to get him a hamster. Apparently, he had known one once and they used to have long philosophical discussions which he missed. (I did not fulfill his request.)

Other dogs have come and gone. We live in rural Sonoma county. Unfortunately, people think it is okay to abandon an unwanted animal “in the country”. We have picked dogs up from our dangerous roads and several dogs have found their way to our house. After we’ve made sure no one was looking for them, we’ve kept them until we found them good homes.  My heart goes out to people who are no longer able to care for a dog or cat and have to give them up to a shelter. I think they do not have the resources to find one of the many rescue organizations that will take dogs and find them new homes without the dog being subjected to the stress of the shelter, hopefully a no-kill shelter. I have rather strong feelings about people who dump an animal and leave it to fend for itself in a hostile environment where it is emotionally bewildered and in danger of starvation and injury. On our driver’s test they ask what the penalty is for abandoning an animal by a road. It is only a $1,000 fine. I wanted to write in a much harsher penalty.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 I’ll tell you about two of my most engaging and unusual dogs. I have been blessed with amazing animals, but AndyPandy and Harley stand out.

I met AndyPandy while volunteering at a rescue event. The bald creature — my friend said he looked like an alien — was not a great candidate for adoption, so I decided to take him home, feed him good food, train him to be somewhat more manageable, and let his fur grow out. He was very high energy — substitute wild — not my kind of dog, so I believed I could foster him without getting attached to him.

It turned out AndyPandy was a thief. Not the usual steak-dragged-off-the-counter kind of thief, but a go-for-the-money kind. I discovered this when he joyfully brought me a wallet, sat in front of me, and waited for a reward. He had snagged it from a guest’s purse. I didn’t think much of it until it happened again. And then one day, I watched Andy quietly pull a wallet from a friend’s trouser pocket without our friend’s noticing. Andy was a pickpocket. I believe he had been part of a gang in the east bay and they had taught him to steal from peoples’ purses and shopping bags. He was so engaging and disarming his marks wouldn’t have suspected a thing. (I imagined Andy’s face on WANTED posters.) I gradually extinguished his stealing behavior by not rewarding him for it. He was exceptionally intelligent. Happily, he and I found the sport of Canine Scentwork where we channeled his considerable talents into just having fun. Oh, did I mention this little “foster” stole our hearts, too, and lived with us for fourteen years? And once his hair started to grow, it didn’t stop, allowing him to be a pitty mix disguised as an Australian Shepherd. I will miss him forever.

Harley was a very large, very sweet Rottweiler with a head like a bear. He liked to take people by the hand to show them things — often the basket where his treats were kept.  One day, he led me into the garden and showed me a nest of baby bunnies hidden in the perennials. He seemed quite paternal toward them. I had seen him playing “chase” with a rabbit. When she stopped, he stopped, keeping a safe distance between them, and then they were off again. They were friends, and she felt completely safe making her nest in his territory. And the beautiful soul that he was, he wanted to share it with me.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve always wanted to write a mystery and had been researching the book that became In the Shadow of Lies for a very long time. Much too long.  Finally, I gave myself a deadline — a significant birthday (I won’t specify which one) — and resolved to have a draft of the book by then or give up the idea that I could write a mystery.

I had written many essays, legal briefs, articles, speeches, and even poetry, but never fiction and was worried that I didn’t have the imagination to make up stories. I set the book in a place I love — Pt. Richmond, Ca — and a time I love — World War II. As I researched the time period and place, story ideas emerged from the social issues people were actually dealing with then: Restrictions on Italians who were thought of as the “enemy.” Racial tensions because of the large influx of black workers who migrated from the south to the east bay defense industry. A segregated military. The war. Italian Prisoners of War in San Francisco.

I also wanted to enjoy the company of a community of characters who were funny and kind and smart. My Italian family is gone now, so I created a fictional one in the book. (I must confess that Mrs. Forgione bears a strong resemblance to my grandmother.) When I sit down to write, it is as if I am going home.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

I can’t imagine writing a book without animals who take part in the story, just as I can’t imagine my life without them. Harley, a German shepherd, saves Oliver’s life on Guam and often steals the show. He represents the Marine K9 Corps who fought in the Pacific. During the war, many families volunteered their dogs to the Marines. Always Faithful by Captain William Putney is a wonderful book that tells about the bravery of the Corps and the devotion between the men and their dogs. As he said, “They gave their lives, so we might live.” Emma is a golden dog who looks like my Andy and travels the hills with Harmonica Man. The animals are definitely characters in their own right.

I suppose one of the lovely things about writing is that I can tell true stories about animals from my own life. For example, in the first book, a mother tells a true story of pinioned geese to explain isolation to her son, and Mrs. Forgione tells a story about swallows that reveals the character of a man.

For Shadowed by Death, I needed to understand the history of the war in Poland. I had grown up hearing derogatory stories about how foolish the Polish cavalry had been to try to fight invading German tanks on horseback.  In fact, the Polish cavalry’s brave maneuvers against the tanks confused the Germans and allowed many Polish soldiers to escape. There is also a wonderful new dog in the book who holds the clue to the mystery.

 Why do you include animals in your writing?

I can’t imagine a world without them and I believe the way people interact with animals reveals character. In part, I write about them to honor them, and in part, because they bring both joy and comfort to the human characters. For example, in In the Shadow of Lies, Oliver is on his way home from training at Camp  Le Jeune because of a death in the family.

“Harley inched closer and closer to me along the belly of the plane until he lay across my thighs and pinned me to the floor. When my hand found his ruff and tightened into a fist, he closed his eyes and pressed even harder against me, as if he wanted to absorb my pain.”

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am writing the third Oliver Wright mystery which is set in Benicia and Point Richmond.

What are you reading now?

I am rereading the Martha Grimes Richard Jury series of mysteries. It is like visiting with old friends. Also, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  My TBR pile includes the latest books from Anne Cleeves, David Rosenfelt, Julie Mulhern’s Country Club Murders Book 8, and DisasterInk, by Caimh McDonnell. I just finished what I am afraid is the last book by Peter Grainger in the DC Smith Investigation series. There are so many wonderful mystery series I can’t begin to list them all.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

I wish I had known sooner that I could actually write a mystery. And how much fun it would be.

 What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

If you are a writer, the act of writing itself will give your life purpose whether you are published or not. Reach out to other writers and writing groups in person and online. You will be gratified by the support we give one another. While writing may be a solitary endeavor, you do not have to do it alone.

About Mary

Mary Adler escaped the university politics of “the ivory tower” for the much gentler world of World War 2 and the adventures of homicide detective Oliver Wright and his German shepherd, Harley. She lives with her family in Sebastopol, California, where she has created a garden habitat for birds and bees and butterflies—and other less desirable critters. Unintended consequences at work again.

She does canine scent work with her brilliant dogs—the brains of the team—and loves all things Italian, especially Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano and cannoli, not necessarily in that order.

Among the books she would be proud to have written are the Fred Vargas’s Commissioner Adamsberg mysteries, set in Paris; Maurizio de Giovanni’s Commissario Ricciardi mysteries, set in Naples; and Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander mysteries, set in Ystad. 

She reminds herself daily of the question poet Mary Oliver asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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Furry Friends and Other Characters by Amy M. Reade

Furry Friends and Other Characters

By Amy M. Reade

          We mystery writers have a thing for pets. There’s Mutt, the half-wolf, half-husky in Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak mysteries; there’s Baxter, the dachshund in Rita Mae Brown’s mysteries starring Mags Rogers; and there are Hodge and Boswell, the cats belonging to Agatha Raisin in the mysteries by M.C. Beaton. There’s Leslie O’Kane and her main character, Allida Babcock, a dog therapist in Colorado; there’s Linda O. Johnston’s main character, Lauren Vancouver, head of a no-kill animal shelter; and there’s Kitty Karlyle, a gourmet chef for pets in the books by Marie Celine.

When I sit down to write, my dog Orly is never far away. She either plants herself on the floor to my right (occasionally, though far less often, to my left) or directly on my feet in front of me. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to write. The only thing that will distract her from her job of keeping me company is when she hears a squirrel at the back window—we have one of those bird feeders that attaches directly to the window and the squirrels claw their way right over the screens to get to the feeder. When the squirrels come calling, all bets are off.

I also have two cats, named Porthos and Athos (after characters in Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers). If your cats are anything like mine, when they deign to notice me at all they will find their way to my keyboard and stand on it until I pay attention to them (usually happens pretty quickly). Or they’ll try to shed sit on my legs howling until I pet them with both hands, thus rendering useless my attempts to write. When they see they’ve annoyed me sufficiently, they leave. Incidentally, they also like to sit on whatever I happen to be reading.

          I suppose, then, it was only natural that I would write mysteries that include animals as characters. I don’t even put pets in my stories intentionally—they just show up. I’ve written seven books and there have been animals as pets in four of them. One dog (The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor), one cat (House of the Hanging Jade), a stable of horses (Murder in Thistlecross), and two dogs (The Worst Noel). The animals play important roles in each story, each in his or her own way.

Pets have long been considered practically essential in cozy mysteries, but they can add interest and depth to other mysteries, too. In The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, a Gothic mystery set in South Carolina, the dog is not just a pet; she’s a stray that ends up being part of the family. She plays a protective role and readers have found that she’s a loveable and crucial character. In House of the Hanging Jade, another Gothic-style set in Hawaii, the cat, Meli, takes center stage in one scene where the main character is being stalked by an old boyfriend. Even early in the story, the cat seems to have a better grasp of the boyfriend’s personality than the main character does.

In Murder in Thistlecross, a more contemporary mystery set in Wales, two of the horses in the stable at Thistlecross Castle have a role in helping two of the characters fall in love. And one of the more shady characters wants to use the horses for his personal gain.

Finally, in The Worst Noel, (my first cozy!) there’s Barney, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. I chose that particular breed of dog because it reminds me of Asta, the dog made famous in The Thin Man book (by Dashiell Hammett) and subsequent movies (starring William Powell and Myrna Loy). There’s nothing better than a crime-fighter with a canine sidekick. And while Barney doesn’t accompany his human when she’s searching for clues and bad guys, he’s always around to provide comfort and unconditional love when she needs him.

But wait…I mentioned two dogs in The Worst Noel. What about the other one? Well, the other one is a surprise. You’ll have to read the book if you want to know more about him.

About Amy

Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, community volunteer, and recovering attorney.

She’s also a writer. She is the author of The Worst Noel, The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

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A Fish, A Cat, and Kittens, Oh My!

An odd series of events led me to my present status as caregiver to a fish, a cat, and two kittens. There were always cats and dogs in my childhood home because my parents were animal lovers. When I got married, I lived in a small apartment so could only have one cat. I adopted a kitten that I called Floppy. I had him for fifteen years during which time we moved into a house and also took in another cat. After both cats passed away, while my daughter was still young, we adopted Stripey, a male tabby, whom we still have. He is now ten years old. When he was five, we also added Oliver, the Siamese that belonged to my mother for twelve years before she became too ill to care for him. It took a while and, although the two cats never became buddies, they worked out their differences and had no problem spending time together.

My Siamese Oliver, and Tabby cat Stripey playing together.

When Oliver passed away last year, Stripey became an only cat again. My fourteen-year-old daughter had become very close to Oliver and wanted another cat to replace him. She said she’d love to have a black cat. It took a year, but my husband finally agreed for us to have two cats again. We’d visited a cat café that had just opened in our area, and she had fallen in love with an orange and white kitten named Ringo. Unfortunately, someone else had already completed an adoption application for Ringo. We promised Holly that we would find another cat for her.

Meanwhile, she brought home a goldfish that she’d won at a homecoming event. We’d had fish in that period after Floppy died and we hadn’t yet gotten Stripey. None of the fish had survived very long except one that she’d called Rocket after a character in the Little Einsteins, her favorite show at the time. Although we’d never had much luck with fish, I helped her set up our old tank. Unfortunately, the fish she’d named Kirishima met the same fate a week later. We buried it at sea, and I thought we were done with fish, but she wanted to replace it. I talked to some aquarium enthusiasts and did some research. I discovered that the easiest and hardiest fish was the Betta, or Fighting Fish. We were preparing to shop for one when fate found one for us. I was at a craft and vendor fair with my books when I saw a woman across from my table selling pretty vases. It turned out that the vases contained betta fish. Talk about a coincidence. How could I not get one? I still have that fish who I call Betta Blue for his color. I’ve been in contact with the woman who sold him to us and have followed her instructions for his care.

Betta Blue in his home

Fate stepped in again when I brought my daughter back a month later to The Shabby Tabby Café a few days before her birthday because there was a fall fair in town. She spotted a black kitten immediately. When we asked if he was already claimed, we found out he wasn’t. However, he couldn’t be separated from his sister. When I saw his sister, I couldn’t believe that she was a calico — just like the kitten I’d recently written about in Love on the Rocks, the 4th book of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series, and also the type of cat I always wanted. Although I knew my husband wouldn’t be thrilled about having three cats in the house, it seemed like it was meant to be. Because I had a few days off from work later the next week, we arranged to pick the kittens up the night before my time off.  It just happened to be my daughter’s birthday, and I think it was the best gift she received.

Harry and Hermione

We’ve had Harry and Hermione for two weeks now, and they are absolute joys. It’s so much fun watching them play and seeing how smart and sweet they both are. They have different personalities. Hermione is very affectionate and curious. Harry is quieter and calmer. Stripey doesn’t yet know what to make of them, but we’re hoping to get them together soon. We’ll definitely keep Betta Blue out of their way, though.

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Welcome, Jodi Rath!

Please welcome author, Jodi Rath, to the Pens, Paws, and Claws blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, I’m Jodi Rath, and I’m so thrilled to be here! My husband and I are both animal lovers, rescuers (although I believe they rescue me), and animal advocates, so finding this blog was a wonderful things for me! I’m married to the man of my dreams and we’ve been together for 16 years. Currently, we have seven cats. We’ve had 13 cats over the last 16 years and we love them all dearly, and even though we’ve lost some of them as they crossed the rainbow bridge, they will forever be a part of our family and in our hearts. All of our cats will be featured in my new series, The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Five of the seven show up in book 1, Pineapple Upside Down Murder, which comes out 11/23/18 and is available for preorder now and they will all be on the covers of the books at one time or another.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

Definitely! In book 1, the protagonist, Jolie Tucker, has four of our cats: Lenny Lee, Sammy Jr., Bobbi Jo, and D.J. Lynn. One of her two love interests ends up adopting another of our cats, Stewart at the end of book 1 and there is a hilarious scene that describes how my husband actually met Steward and decided to adopt him. LOL. All of our cats have middle names too, LOL!

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on two flash fiction stories that will be freebies and come out two weeks before the release date of Pineapple Upside Down Murder (so early November this year). They are prequels to lead into book 1, although, people can still read book 1 without reading these, but they are a really fun look at the protagonist as kids in the first and teens in the second and the kitties will show up there too! I’m also working on book 2 which is called Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Murder where Stewart Michael will be on the cover!

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

Hmmm . . . our cats are not MAIN characters in my books, but they are a central part of the book and over time will become more integrated into the later books in the series. There are currently 14 books in this series and I already have each title and book planned out with an overarching theme to tie it all together and the cats are definitely a part of that theme!

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Why wouldn’t I is my question! LOL  I LOVE animals SO much! Our cats are our lives. They are our kids. Just like I can’t imagine living without them, I can’t imagine writing without them or having them in the writing!

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them.

I do not have any in book 1, but there will be some in later books in the series!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh boy, well, one of them is that scene about my husband, Mike, and Stewart which you can read about in Pineapple Upside Down Murder. The other one, hmmm, I’m not sure it’s clean enough for the blog. LOL.  My husband is a snorer. A loud snorer. So, he is lying on his back snoring loudly one night, and Stewart sits on his mouth and he chokes and gets up yelling in fear. It frightened me when he told me what happened, and I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life. Stewart was looking for a way to shut him up! LOL

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

At age five, I used my stuffed animals and dolls as my staff of my “pretend” magazine business. I used my mom’s old magazines and would cut them up and paste things together and use a red pen to mark on them. At age seven, I signed up to win a set of encyclopedias and won! I used to randomly pick out an encyclopedia then open up to any page, read an article and summarize it pretending to be a journalist. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer as a job, but I think I knew back at age five.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pets all lay around me while I write. I can have anywhere between three to five cats around me at one time while I’m writing.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

I think I have about 700 books in my Nook. I think I have about one thousand or more physical books. I was an English Literature major in my undergrad work. I LOVE books—all books! I also use the library like an insane person. LOL I have two local libraries near me and I am constantly taking books out for research too. There are books all around me as I read. I’d have to take up a thousand pages to list them all.  Some of the books I am planning to read are anything by Sara Paretsky and her V.I. Warshawski series. I’m all caught up and anxiously awaiting the new one to come out soon! I love Heather Blake, Amanda Flower, Victoria Laurie, and Elaine Viets to name a few more.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

I love to read in bed at night. My little bobtail kitty, Bobbi Jo, likes to snuggle right up by my belly while I lay on my side to read, and I love it!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

I have been an educator for close to twenty years.  I’ve had so many teenagers who want to do something in a creative field, like: write, art, act, sing, play in a band, etc.  I think that is wonderful! I think a lot of people think because something is creative that it is all fun. To me, what I do now is more fun than anything I’ve ever done…so that is true. At the same time, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked a lot of jobs that were difficult and time-consuming, but I’ve never put in more time and effort than I have as a writer. Everyone wants a creative, fun job. There is a lot of competition. So, to do it well one has to be willing to put all their time and effort into it if you want it to be a career.

About Jodi:

Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided to begin a life of crime in her The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her seven cats.

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The Dogs Have Their Day

by Maggie King

When I posted about cats in mysteries earlier this year, I promised a companion post about canine mysteries.

And now, at last: the dogs have their day!

I took a democratic approach and pooled my dog-loving social media followers with this question: “What are your favorite mysteries with a dog as a significant character?”

Read on for their responses.

In the Books by the Bay mysteries, Olivia Limoges returns to her home town in North Carolina with Captain Haviland, a black standard poodle. Created by Ellery Adams.

In Bethany Blake’s Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries, you can enjoy the company of both dogs and cats. Krista Davis also pairs dogs and cats in her Paws and Claws Mysteries.

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. All of her dogs find a role in her books.

More than one responder suggested Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s Mysteries series, featuring magazine writer Holly Winter and a cast of dogs.

Robert Crais wrote a standalone crime story with LAPD cop Scott James and his partner, Maggie, a German Shepherd. Man and dog suffer from PTSD as a result of horrendous experiences. Note: I’m convinced that the #1 pet names are Maggie and Fred!

Waverly Curtis created the Seattle-based Barking Detective series of humorous mystery novels starring Pepe, a talking Chihuahua.

Of course, there’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring the inimitable Sherlock Holmes. The legend of a terrifying, satanic hound of supernatural origin instigates an attempted murder.

Alex Kava’s series features former marine Ryder Creed and his K9 dogs.

Bailey, a very sarcastic canine, saves his companions in Be Careful What You Wish For by Solomon Knight.

Ketch is a key character in J.R. Lindermth’s The Limping Dog, about a dog rescued from a wrecked sailing ship.

One follower suggested White Fang by Jack London. She wasn’t sure if it qualified as a mystery, but we’ll just say it does.

Mystery/thriller author Paul D. Marks highlights racism and immigration in his crime novels. His canine characters are Baron in White Heat and Molly in Broken Windows.

In Louise Penny’s books set in the village of Three Pines, Quebec, Henri is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s German Shepherd.

Spencer Quinn’s Chet & Bernie series got a few votes. Chet the dog is the faithful companion of Arizona private investigator Bernie Little.

In David Rosenfelt’s bibliography you’ll find a long list of dog-themed mysteries featuring Andy Carpenter, an irreverent defense attorney in Paterson, New Jersey.

Amy Shojai created a “pet-centric” thriller series with September Day, an animal behaviorist/trainer, and her German Shepherd service dog named Shadow.

In Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mysteries, Kate Davidson is a yoga instructor in Seattle with her German Shepherd sidekick Bella.

Seems like German Shepherds reign as top dog in mysteries. Inspector Rex reigns, appropriately enough, on TV. An Austrian police procedural comedy-drama television series, Inspector Rex follows the German Shepherd police dog Rex, his partners, and the rest of the team at the Vienna Kriminalpolizei homicide unit, as they work together to solve crimes. Since 2008, the show has been set in Rome.

There are many, many more mysteries with dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, birds, goldfish, you name it. Look for my upcoming posts. And let me know your favorite mysteries with animals. Our furry friends enrich not only our lives, but our reading as well.

Twinkle was my childhood dog. Truth be told, he was my mother’s dog and loved her best. Twinkle, a Toy Fox Terrier, had a brown and charcoal patch over one eye, and a mere stub of a tail. Below, he poses with my mother and grandmother on “the farm” in upstate New York.

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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